Danielle's 16th Birthday Solo

Memorial Day 2017

Despite the cloudy and low weather on Memorial Day in Wisconsin this year, it was one of the better days in life...with Danielle's birthday finally here, her student pilot certificate restriction under XIII Limitations saying "Not valid for solo flight in aircraft other than gliders or balloons until applicant reaches 16th birthday" was now no longer applicable.  It was time to SOLO!  There are many people, I am happy to say, that do their solo on their 16th birthday.  It's in the blogs every couple weeks about another 16 year old soloing.  It is excellent to see that there are still some kids who would rather do the REAL DEAL than just play X-Box all day long.  Danielle's story has a couple of interesting twists to it that make it special, even if only special to us. For more of the story, read on beyond the pictures...

Danielle's 16th Birthday Solo Video

(note to self, remove the ND filter before flying on dark days)

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Just as most solos begin, Danielle started her day with her instructor, a.k.a. "Dad". The day before we had gone out and done 3 great landings, and today we would start the day with one perfect one just to verify conditions.  The conditions where the real issue of the day this year in Wisconsin.  Much of the Northern part of the state was to get scattered showers, MVFR ceilings of 1500' or so, and after 8-10am the winds were to pick up to between 15-25kts.  We had considered flying elsewhere, as even an hour south would have much nicer ceilings, but the winds were to be bad everywhere within a couple hour radius, so we decided to just beat the weather and head to the airport at 6am.  Upon arrival, the winds were in the low teens, but within 20 degrees of runway heading so it would be a piece of cake.  It brought back old memories of my first solo, watching the instructor depart the plane and head for the FBO, as I climbed out of the plane.  I fired up the various GoPro and Virb cameras that we had mounted to capture the moment, and gave Danielle a nod...and watched as my very first student taxi'd out for their very first solo, since I became a CFI earlier this year.  I have one other student who is now ready to solo as well, but it was a fantastic turn of events that my own daughter will always be my first solo'd.

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Whereas many instructors may be nervous when sending their student on their first solo, I was not...not in the slightest.  Knowing this girl for her whole life, I knew how she was.  She's bright, meticulous, she follows the rules, and has always done a very good job with any vehicles she drives.  She started out on motorcycles as a kid, taking after her old man, and I knew that not only had I trained her well for the flight, but that she was very capable. Her demeanor when we flew says it all, as she is always as cool as a cucumber.

Seeing the airplane lift off was a great experience for me, hearing the whine of that IO-390 as she climbed out away from the airport.  I could hear it all very well, listening for the power change I told her to do as she turns crosswind, to keep the sporty RV-14 from over-climbing the pattern altitude.  It doesn't take long to both get off the ground, nor hit 1000' AGL when you have a 111lb girl in a 210hp airplane!  As she entered the downwind I hear the power spool back further as she got the airplane down to flap extension speed.  I had a handheld radio with me as I took some video and could hear her calls.  Watching on final, the bright nav lights lit up the wingtips and I watched the airplane smoothly sink towards the runway.  Then softly it touched down and I was proud as I could see she was almost perfectly on center with the dashed line.  I had told her to do full-stop landings, and if there were plenty of room, she could do stop-and-go's, being fully prepared for each takeoff, unlike the touch-n-goes we practice together.  She ended up rolling out with less than 1500' of runway used, out of 5000' available, so I watched on as the airplane powered back up and went around for 2 more.

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Back on the ground we watched her taxi in, pulling the mixture and stopping the engine, coming to rest showing 114.9 hours on the hobbs. Then there were the customary pictures of a smiling pilot.  It's hard to tell if that's an "RV Grin" or a "Student Solo" grin, if there is a difference, but in her case both could be the one.  She was my most loyal helper on this project that we built.  She was not just flying an airplane...she was flying HER airplane, one she helped create with her own hands.

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Climbing out of the cockpit it was time for the solo ritual of the cutting of the shirt tails.  This is something I didn't have happen to me when I solo'd, so honestly I don't know if it's still common or not.  But we had just been to SteinAir talking to the avionics guru himself, and he gave her a shirt just for this purpose, so we performed the ritual...a trophy to add to the hangar wall. :)

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And then it was time for me to finally get to be lucky enough to have my picture taken with her, on her day of accomplishment.  It makes me proud to know she is turning out how she is.  She's been ready for this solo for quite some time now, having 29.9 hours logged in her logbook...all but 3.8 of them with me in RV's.  She probably has another 27 or so hours of unlogged time, since I wasn't a CFI when she first got serious in wanting to learn to land these things.  5.6 of her hours are in our RV-10, which she is also ready to fly solo....many of her unlogged hours are in that airplane, and she's got 20.5 hours in the RV-14.  Being trained in both of these High Performance airplanes has earned her a H.P. signoff in her logbook as well...something I wasn't even blessed with until just before I went for transition training in the RV-10 in Oregon.  This experience will open doors for her future.  Whey they say "Some day you will go places.", you know they mean it when you're flying an RV.  Happy flights, Danielle.  Love you.

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Here are some pictures taken a couple days later when the weather was a bit better.  It was Danielle's first SOLO formation photo flight, but not her first formation flight, as I've spent many flights flying with her in formation with other planes, giving her the basics of formation flight.  It really paid off now, because it turns out she's very smooth on the stick and throttle when flying in formation.  She's got the potential to be a very good formation pilot for our many adventures!

Since these photos we finally had time to also solo her in our RV-10, N104CD.  She did perfectly and now continues to fly both airplanes.

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We had a little additional fun surrounding Danielle's solo flight.  Considering that today's youth are the only ones capable in keeping private aviation alive in the future, I wanted to take any opportunity to keep aviation in a positive light in the public eye.  So prior to the solo flight I emailed our local news paper to see if they'd be interested in doing a story on Danielle, since she has been involved in airplanes her whole life, literally never missed an Airventure since her birth, and participated in the building of both airplanes...especially the RV-14.  They were not only interested but said they'd love to do it and they ran it on the front page of the local paper, the Eau Claire Leader Telegram!  Surprisingly, due to it being released on the AP, it also showed up in a couple other newspapers nationwide!  It was really a shock to us!  The reporter was very nice and did an excellent job on the article.  Here are a couple of web page grabs of them.

Pilot takes first solo flight in two-seat aircraft she built with her dad - Eau Claire Leader Telegram

Pilot takes first solo flight in two-seat aircraft she built - Sacramento Bee

We're pretty proud of her, and very hopeful that she can help promote women and girls getting into aviation, along with aviation in general.

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